WSU sets futility marks in loss to No. 1 Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Past the midpoint of the first half, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon looked up to the scoreboard and saw Washington State with one point.
“It’s something that you see but don’t really pay attention to,” Gordon said. “I think everyone noticed that, but you just keep playing defense like you have been.”
The top-ranked Wildcats were far too big and athletic and never stopped played defense against the short-handed Cougars, winning 60-25 Thursday night in a game in which Washington State set multiple marks for futility in 41-year-old McKale Center.
The Cougars set an arena record for fewest points scored in a game. The previous mark was 37, set by Northern Arizona in 1989.
Washington State also set McKale Center records for fewest field goals in a game (nine) and lowest shooting percentage (20 percent, 9-for-45).
“Arizona jumped on us early,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said, “and it never really ended.”
Washington State (7-6) didn’t reach double-digit points until Will DiIorio hit a 3-pointer with 12:17 left in the game. Arizona led 38-9 before that basket.
“Our goal all year was to be a top-10 defense,” Arizona guard Nick Johnson said. “I think we should push that to top five and eventually the No. 1 defense in the country. I think we have the tools to make it happen. I guess this is an example of what we can do.”
The Wildcats are off to a 14-0 start for the second consecutive season.
Arizona, coming off a 10-day holiday layoff, was sharp from the start, opening with an 18-1 run against Washington State, which played without guard DaVonte Lacy. The Cougars’ leading scorer, averaging 18.9 points, is recovering from an emergency appendectomy performed Dec. 28.
Washington State starting guard Dexter Kernich-Drew, averaging 6.3 points, also was out because of a concussion.
”DaVonte Lacy is having a great year. To me, he’s an All-Pac-12 performer,“ Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ”You take that firepower off an opponent, sometimes things like this can happen, especially on the road.
“We certainly didn’t get their best shot. ... Having said that, I thought our defensive effort was outstanding. We had a lot of players concentrating, being where they were supposed to, and we tried to use our size around the basket. We did that very well.”
Arizona’s success is built around defense and rebounding -- the Wildcats outrebounded every opponent to date this season -- but the offense wasn’t great in a game that Washington State tried to slow down to a crawl. Only one player reached double-figure points on either team, Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski, who scored 11. Gordon had 10 rebounds. Wildcats guards T.J. McConnell and Johnson each scored eight.
Forward Junior Longrus led Washington State with six points. The Cougars even had trouble when no one was guarding them; they shot 5-for-13 from the free throw line.
Washington State didn’t score a field goal until guard Royce Woolridge made a fast-break layup with 6:42 left in the first half to cut Arizona’s lead to 21-5. The Cougars, intent on using most of the shot clock against Arizona’s man-to-man defense, missed their first 16 shots from the field.
“They’re big in the paint, and it was just really hard to score on them because they’re so active,” Woolridge said. “It’s a good learning experience, though, and we won’t let this happen again.”
Arizona, which entered the game allowing opponents to shoot just 37.1 percent, was so dominant that Washington State also set three McKale Center records for offensive futility for a half: fewest points (seven), fewest field goals (two) and lowest field goal percentage (9.5 percent).
Arizona led 28-7 at the break, holding the Cougars to 2 of 21 shooting.
NOTES: Arizona debuted a new video board above midcourt. It features four 12-by-19-foot screens plus LED rings above and below the screens. Coach Sean Miller called the new board “awesome” in how it contributes to the game atmosphere in 41-year-old McKale Center. ... Washington State freshman G Que Johnson started his second consecutive game in place of G DaVonte Lacy (appendectomy), and he scored three points. ... Arizona 7-foot sophomore C Kaleb Tarczewski, who missed the previous two games because of a sprained right ankle, returned to the starting lineup. ... Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, a former Arizona All-America outfielder who lives in Tucson in the offseason, sat courtside. ... Arizona will play Washington on Saturday. ... Washington State plays Sunday at Arizona State.